Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009
Always a day of reflection as the efforts of the old year recede into oblivion and the hopes of a new year loom. Yesterday I went through my daytimer and made two categories: things I failed miserably at and things I accomplished successfully. The first list is long and I won't bore you. The second list is personal and I won't bore you although I will say I am very proud and thankful that we are holding our own in this economy. The idea, or concept, is to take the items on the first list and let them go, and then focus on the second list and be thankful for what you have, or in this case, what I have. The fact that I'm even here is high on the list. Ha.

Worked today on finishing two studies I posted yesterday. First up "Storm Rider::

And my "Navajo Raiders Return":

A little too mushy, but it is a study. Also did another Elephant Butte storm study:

Catch you all next year!

"Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!"
—Jane Austin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 30, 2009
Overcast and cool out, but not cold. A skeleton crew in the office, just me, Carole, Sheri, Abby, Ron, Lynda and Joe.

Worked this morning on a couple landscapes, starting with this one of a pale storm over Elephant Butte:

Decent colors. Also started a big Navajo sky study:

Need to put in the foreground. Going to be riders coming towards us and the tentative title is "Navajo Raiders Return."

I have a doctor coming in at 11:30 to look at paintings and while looking through my stack of studies in my home studio I found this little gem:

This was done last December when I was working on my El Kid graphic cinema piece for the magazine. I think I went with another, more complicated version, but I sure like this one. Nice mood, love the rider with the long tapaderos.

Got an email from Jeff Hildebrandt yesterday wondering if I had seen the new issue of American Cowboy. I told him I hadn't seen it yet, but why did he ask? Jeff was coy and he said that I would be somewhat surprised by what was on their cover. He was right (got our copy this morning at the office and Carole brought it in with a big smile):

My theory is that they put the name of a competitor, True West, on the cover because they:

• knew and didn't care

• weren't thinking straight because of all the egg nog

• didn't know and still didn't care

"There is nothing easier than lopping off heads and nothing harder than developing ideas."
—Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29, 2009
Back from the Grand Canyon. It was Kathy's gift to me, and our family spent two days at the South Rim in Yavapai Lodge. Lots of snow and ice and a blustery northern Arizona patented wind that went right through every layer of clothing we had on, but, amazingly, it was invigorating. We drove out to several lookout points west of El Tovar, for sunrise yesterday morning (7:38) and watched a dull red skyline mush out.

Prior to leaving for the canyon, I got some intestinal bug and we delayed leaving on Saturday for several hours. Finally took off at about 10:30 and made it to Mund's Park (just barely) where I jumped the line in the Texaco Mini-Mart and raked the pipes with X-mas Cheer. When I came out, Kathy said I looked green and the attendant said to me as I put a jug of Gator-Aid on the counter: "I want to shake your hand. I take the magazine and you are the only reason I subscribe to the Arizona Republic." Of course, I was flattered, and I did shake his hand, but I couldn't help but imagine him hugging his home toilet that evening while muttering to his wife, "That damn contagious green Bastard gave me the Grumbling Garfullitess." (as my father creatively called it)

Believe it or not, it actually got worse when we got to Flag and I'll spare you the details of my attempt to eat soup at a deli and the subsequent egress of said liquid from the vicinity of my upper body. However, the rest of the trip was a dream come true. Lots of laughs, long walks and life solving. My kind of trip. Thanks Kath!

Backing up a bit, had a nice day working in the studio for part of Christmas Day. Finished this closeup of Al Sieber, talking to Mickey Free ("Follow the Bi-jahn, Mick."):

I love his left eyeball. Not sure how I got that subtle of an effect, but there it is. Also worked on a POV of Beauty:

A little too harsh of a look for Beauty, but I like the angle. Meanwhile, I'm still producing patina paintings galore (did 50 on Christmas Eve!):

"Throw up in the morning, clean up in the afternoon."
—Ray Bradbury's advice to young writers

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24, 2009
Yesterday I scanned a movie still that had the Animas Mountains in the background and had Robert Ray dropsend it to our art director, Dan the Man as a tiff, so he could monkey around with it for our proposed train cover. Here is what the talented Mr. Harshberger came up with:

Pretty sweet. Love the movie poster lettering on the names. And, no Will Shetterly, Dan the Man put the smoke and the train going between Marilyn's legs without any suggestion, or coercing from me. Call it Kingman humor, or flat out perversity, I think it's a keeper. ha.

"Straddling a train in the Rockies is harder than it looks."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23, 2009
The Lioness, Meghan Saar, gifted me with a rare Billy the Kid artifact:

She assures me this pistol-knife set is accurate and "authentic" to the tiniest detail. Notice the bullet hooks made of pure gold. Notice the image of Billy on the handle that's obviously lifted from the Noah Rose abomination which I worked for years to replace (with better images of the Kid), but no, they used the Rose version of the Kid which gave rise to the notion that Billy was a deranged goofus. I'd ask where she got it but that would be looking a gifted editor in the mouth.

Meanwhile, went home for lunch and grabbed an unfinished cloud painting out of my reject pile. Last summer when I drove to Lincoln, New Mexico I witnessed a series of storms east of San Antonio and the Trinity Site. One storm, sweeping over White Oaks, haunted me, and so, today I tried to capture that raking pattern I remembered as I drove through the Malpais towards Carizozo:

Hard to believe, but I nailed it.

Meanwhile, in my dust studies I read about a cavalry trooper who wrote about being caught out in an Arizona dust storm on patrol. He described it as being bombarded by an open pepper box:

"Approaching Pepper Box," is the title to this one.

Well, my quest to make it to 10,000 steps a day is going rather weakly. Logged in at 3,100 steps yesterday, 3,300 the day before. Today is much better at 4,676 steps (at 3:12 P.M.), but I'm still not even half-way there. Now, to contrast this, I read in the new issue of Time that General Stanley One-Meal-A-Day McChrystal, our commander in Afghanistan, when he was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1999 to 2000, rather than take public transportation he ran from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is a 12-mile run, one way. If 9,000 steps is five miles, well, that is one fit Bastard. Gee, I wonder what the Old Vaqueros have to say about this:

"The longest journey begins with a single step."
—Old Vaquero Saying

"Yes, but a thousand ADD journeys begin with a single false step."
December 23, 2009
Really chilly out this morning. Our porch thermometer says 45 degrees. I realize this is a heatwave to Julie in Wyoming and Bill in Canada, but Man, it's downright debilitating for a desert rat. Ha.

News From The Front Lines
Had an interesting report from Carole yesterday. A woman named Rebecca Markey from West Lawn, Pennsylvania called saying she saw me on the Westerns Channel doing a True West Moment and in it I mentioned that you could read more about something in True West magazine. I'm not exactly sure which segment this was, but Rebecca had never heard of us and started looking. She doesn't have a computer, but she somehow tracked us down, called and ordered a subscription. Oh, the power of TV.

It was last year about this time that I was obsessed with snow painting and did a series for my El Kid graphic cinema piece:

Not too shabby. Here's another one to get you in the mood for a cold ride:

For Christmas, Meghan Saar gave me a Billy the Kid pistol-knife combo and Carole Glenn gave me The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, a retelling by Peter Ackroyd, and, she got me the 2-disc Special Editon of Inglorious Basterds, the film by Quentin Tarantino. We saw ads for the Spanish version in Argentina last September:

Leaving the office early to go get Kathy some soup for lunch (she's off today wrapping presents and getting ready for tomorrow night).

"The simplest definition of art is a true lie."
—Kelsey Grammer, in Esquire magazine

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22, 2009
Charlie Waters' birthday today. Called him at 7:15 A.M. and woke up Linda, his wife. Charlie was asleep as well. Turns out it was 6:15 in Vegas. Ouch! I told him this was de ja Vegas: in 1962 me and Rick Ridenour were in Vegas with my parents and we stayed up late (we twisted on the stage with Chubby Checker at the Sands earlier, then took a cab and tried to find call girls—we were 15 but we did have ties on—and the cabbie just laughed at us and dropped us off at Ripley's Carnival where we drove bumper cars) and, later, back at the Hacienda Hotel (my dad got a free room for handing out brochures in his gas station) we decided to call Charlie from our room (my parents were at a show). Mr. Waters (Charlie's dad) answered and when we asked for Charlie he said, "God-d--it, do you know what time it is?" We admitted we didn't know. It was two in the morning. How did we know? There are no clocks in Vegas. So, anyway, that was in 1962, and here I was calling Charles Richard Waters in Vegas to wish him a happy birthday. How old is he? He's 62. See, it's de ja Vegas all over again.

Got some rain this afternoon. Chopped some wood and started a fire in the studio stove and settled in to do some dust storm studies:

Yes, that's the Mickster riding towards us in a thick dust cover. Very subtle effects and quite hard to do. Still working on it. Here's a master shot, called "Dusty Dawn":

And here's another dusty desert scene:

Nice color selection. I especially like the rippling heatwave just under the distant escarpment. Almost a dry lake effect. Sweet. Meanwhile, for something completely different, here's a cave scene with the title "She Beckoned From The Opening":

I wish I could say this is the image I had in my head when I started but it's not. Like the cave paintings, or the hint of them, but the maiden? Well, let's just say she's not quite as fetching as the one in my head. Gee, I wonder what ol' Jenny Holzer has to say about this:

“If you are an artist and you are honest, you are never good enough.”
—Jenny Holzer

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 21, 2009
Several have asked me how the birthday dinner went and I have to say, those chicken fried buffalo steaks are just the best (check out So much leaner than beef, with all the taste. Bud and Carole Glenn joined us and Carole took this photo of us after dinner:

Yes, that homely little tree I bought at the Christmas Tree Lot at School House Road in downtown Cave Creek. Paid $50 for the runt. It was in the back, nobody wanted it. I knew it was just right for our house. We love it.

Dan the Man and I continue to jam on the train cover. One of our problems is that damn ISBN box which we have to cram into the design, in this case in the lower, left-hand corner. The painting of the horseback riders I did compromised that space and it became a problem.

This weekend I was looking at old posters and I ran across this early, John Wayne poster:

I especially like the design of the torn element slashing down the left side. This gave me the inspiration to create a similiar butte with a train robber, or two coming down off the bluff, and then hugging the side of the bluff is a film crew, filming the train, like this:

By the way, it has always amused me that we have this image of horseback riders attacking a train. You can do that to a stagecoach, but it doesn't really work on a train. In fact train robbers either blocked the train with boulders, or branches forcing it to stop, or they pulled out the rails, like the James Gang did at Adair, Iowa (killing the engineer in the subsequent wreck, by the way), or they commandeered the engine by sending a bandit over the coal tender (who usually boarded the train at the previous stop) and into the locomotive to accost the engineer. Then, the robber in the locomotive ordered the engineer to pull the train forward to a prearranged spot where the gang was waiting. In spite of this, in movies like Shanghai Noon, the bandits meet on the top of a hill and then ride down toward the train firing their guns. Never happened. Very silly, but we accept it visually for some reason.

"Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know."
—Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
December 21, 2009
Counting every step I take: it's 27 steps to the chicken coop from the house. It's 70 steps to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper. It's 12 steps from the kitchen to the bathroom, it's three steps from the kitchen table to the refrigerator. And, it's 560 steps from our front door to the top of the hill on Old Stage Road, it's 960 steps to the creek on Rockaway Hills and 2001 steps total back to our house (yes, I got a pedometer for my B-Day).

On Saturday I really tried to make it to 10,000 steps, but, alas, I only made it to 4,503 (and this was with two separate walks!), and yesterday I clocked in at a measly 3,300 on the nose. Less than a third of where I need to be.

So, what is it about this number 10,000? I seem to be shadowed by it. In October we finished our 100th issue of True West and if you figure it took 100 hours per issue, well, there you go. As I've reported for the past four years, every artist allegedly has 10,000 bad drawings in him, the Beatles spent 10,000 hours perfecting their act before they made it, Bill Gates spent 10,000 hours doing programming before he hit it big (these last two examples are from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and he claims 10,000 is the magic proficiency number). Yesterday, I read in the New York Times that a Wal-Mart assistant manager walks 9,000 steps, or five miles, a shift. Now a doctor I don't know claims we need to walk 10,000 steps a day. What gives with the ten grand?

Meanwhile, had a very nice weekend painting storm effects, like this:

Skeleton clouds like this:

And distant desert dust storms like this:

Also worked on our train cover, but I'll post that progress later.

"Everyone should walk 10,000 steps in another man's shoes, because at that distance it's pretty hard for the guy to catch up to you and get his shoes back."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 19, 2009
Got a raft of Birthday greetings from around the world, literally. Frederic Nolan sent me a cool email card. Kathy gave me four cards, hidden, like Easter eggs, around the house (one on this computer). The Top Secret Writer congratulated me for "crawling to another B-Day." Then he added this:

"Speaking of age my morning paper obits inform us that Gene Barry --Bat Masterson--and Jennifer Jones --Duel In The Sun--have died. Both were 90."
—Paul Hutton

You get your news late over there don't you? Both died last week. The guy who I'm mourning today is Dan O'Bannon, who wrote Alien and The Return of The Living Dead. He was born three months before me, September 30, 1946. And no, he didn't return—from the dead.


And speaking of the return of the dead I have been inspired by my birthday walking (Carole Glenn gifted me a pedometer to gauge my daily walking: I'm up to 2,464 steps today. Need to log 10,000 to be healthy), on my morning walk with Peaches I got the inspiration to do One Page Wonders (the wonder being, do they work?). This would be snippets of graphic novel ideas, a page at a time. This plays to my scattered mind, and allows me to get some of these characters out of my head and down on paper. Roughs to follow.

Not a new idea certainly, but then ol' Chaucer has something groovy to say about that:

"Out of old fields comes all the new corn."
—Geoffrey Chaucer

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18, 2009
Deena Bell was on ABC 15 news last night. A report on DUIs by Christina Boomer featured my daughter taking a breathalyzer test. Hope she doesn't do jail time. Ha. Here's the link to the story: Breathalyzers.

Click on the link (with the video camera logo): Company offers Scottsdale club-goers free breathalyzers.

Speaking of Deena Bean, she took this photo on my birthday in 2006 in Cerocahi (sp?), Mexico. I have it framed in my office and often look at it with quiet admiration. It contains the elements of Mexico that me and my family love:

Look down the street between the two horses and you'll see a pack donkey tied to a post outside a tienda. Very peaceful and serene. Great shot number one daughter!

Drove into the Beast today and had lunch with Jim Larkin of Village Media (he and Mike Lacey own the Village Voice and bunch of other alternative weeklies, including New Times where I worked for ten years). Fun talking with Jim and catching up on family and friends. Ran into Hippie George at Manuel's, as well. He's the old Cave Creek. George is in the adobe biz and built my tractor garage and several of the outlying walls.

UPS just delivered a big frozen batch of buffalo meat here at True West from The Buffalo Guys (they won our Best of the West this year). It's for my birthday tomorrow. Kathy is making chicken fried buffalo steaks for me. Check out the boys at

Lew Jones, of Mineshaft fame, just came into the office and asked me if he could come over and work on the '49 Ford. Of course. I asked him how things are in Mogollon, NM, and he said, "Quiet. Just like I like it."

Speaking of cool cars, last Friday a subscriber, John Copsey, came by with his cherry 1956 Ford. I took a photo of him and his friend from Idaho (that's him walking up in the background):

After my lunch with Larkin, I drove over to Dan The Man's studio and we jammed on the train cover, going over ideas on how to really make it pop. I'm working up a painting for the bottom, but we may utilize Photoshop and cannibalize old photos for artistic effect. Kind of exciting. Love this kind of stuff.

"The problem with some people is that when they aren't drunk, they're sober."
—William Butler Yeats

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17, 2009
Lots going on both here at the True West offices and at home. Went home for lunch and worked some more on dust storm effects. What would it look like if a group of refugees were trudging across a dry lake, coming towards us and behind them is a sun, or, a bright light source? Would the light source show up as a sphere, or as a tear in the dust? Hmmmmm:

Still not where I want it to be, but it's getting there.

Meanwhile, Dan The Man sent up a batch of train covers. Here are my two favorites:

And my second favorite:

Dan really captured the color and lettering, now we need to work on the bottom of the poster. Needs more action, train robbers attacking the train, like this, perhaps:

And it might be cool to have the train go between her legs? Or, is that too much?

Meanwhile, we need a list of stars who have appeared in movies that utilized the Durango & Silverton Railroad in their movies. I sent out the call to our contributing editors:

We are going to emulate those grand 1940s movie posters and we want a short paragraph to say something like:

Starring! Paul Newman, Robert Redford, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, Jason Robards, Rory Calhoun and a bit player named Marilyn Monroe!

Something like that, but we want names that will ring the chimes of our readers.

Meghan has the names of the movies that the railroad claims were filmed there. I assume Paul Hutton knows the list better than they do, and perhaps there are others not listed? I got Marlon Brando from Viva Zapata and John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Jason Robards from How The West Was Won. Who am I missing? We want a really solid list of A stars. Are there more women besides Marilyn who should be on the list? Help me guys! Thanks.

Got this back almost immediately:

• Barbara Stanwyck in Maverick Queen.

• Joel McCrae and Virginia Mayo in Colorado Territory.

• Walter Brennan and Ann Baxter in Ticket to Tomahawk.

• Anthony Quinn in Viva Zapata.

• Aaron Spelling had a secondary role in Three Young Texans.

• James Cagney and Ernest Borgnine in Run for Cover.

• Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Charles Boyer and David Niven in Around the World...

• James Garner, Suzanne Pleshette and Jack Elam in Support Your Local Gunfighter.

• Kris Kristofferson in The Tracker.

• Whoopi Goldberg in Golden Dreams.

And who could forget the legendary Zasu Pitts in Denver & Rio Grande?

—Mark Boardman

“Sam Elliott had a small role as ‘Card Player #2’ in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Katherine Ross was one of the stars. I’d rather ride the river with her than Marilyn Monroe any day. Debbie Reynolds was in How the West Was Won."
—Marshall Trimble

“BBB: Tim McCoy was featured in the western section of Around the World in 80 Days. Virginia Mayo is almost as luscious as Marilyn in Colorado Territory (which is a western remake of High Sierra). I certainly hope you will not neglect my written and coproduced (with Bill Kurtis) episode of Investigating History on Butch and Sundance (featuring, among others, Thom Ross, Rusty York, Johnny Boggs and the stunning Tracy Hutton as Etta). The train must have been used in countless TV shows. I'll check my film stills.”
—Paul Hutton

Okay, now to fashion a paragraph of names that will make someone go, "Wow! What is this about?" Who should be on that final list? Should be about seven to ten names, both superstars and weird ones, perhaps Zasu Pitts, or Johnny Boggs.

Just kidding on the Boggs part, although it would be real funny to about 60 people (my kind of audience).

"If you want to build a wagon train, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless desert."
—Old Vaquero Saying
December 17, 2009
As you may or may not know, The True West Preservation Society has been attempting to salvage and honor the gravesite of Mattie Earp, Wyatt's second significant other. After being abandoned by Wyatt in 1882 Mattie ended up "on the line" near Superior, Arizona in a small mining town named Pinal. She died there from an overdose of laudinum and was buried without much fanfare (or, a known headstone).

Our good friend Vince Murray (of Arizona Historical Research fame, see What History Has Taught Me, TW, July 2009) has been pursuing a solution for us. Here is an update from our production manager:

"Yesterday Vince Murray and I drove out to the Old Pinal Cemetery to discuss putting a fence around this site with three Forest Service officials. Everyone is in agreement that this is a good idea and the City of Superior will also be involved.

"We surveyed the site, identifying several dog graves in the process (two of the forest Service guys are archeologists) and walked the perimeter to identify the boundary of the proposed fence.

"It was determined that the fence would be triangular with two pedestrian entrances. The fence will be constructed of barbed wire and Vince is working up a proposal showing exactly what materials will be needed.

"There is currently a turnaround on the trail leading to the cemetery right were the Mattie Earp shrine was. It was decided that we should move this turnaround back up the trail and leave a space for parking so as to limit traffic close to the cemetery. One of the pedestrian openings will be facing this turnaround area.

"The other pedestrian opening will be adjacent to the historical hiking and equestrian trail being built by the City of Superior. This trail will join up with the Arizona Trail.

"Vince is looking into what materials will be need while the Forest Service guys are getting all the permits and approvals required. When these things have been accomplished, I believe there will be another meeting with TWPS the Forest Service and the City of Superior.

"Finally we will need to gather volunteers to erect the fence (estimated as two days work). We already have some geocachers express an interest in helping."
—Robert Ray

When it was mentioned that someone has been poking makeshift rebar crosses into the ground around Mattie's gravesite, one of the forest rangers, replied:

"We need to get this fence up because, Lord knows, Mattie has been poked enough."
—A Forest Ranger who wishes to remain anonymous

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 16, 2009
Went home for lunch to work on dust storm effects. If you were enveloped in a dust storm and you saw a group of people walking towards you, what would that look like?

And, if you were in a dust storm and you encountered a rider coming off a ridge, what would that look like?

Now, imagine you posted several comedic bits by George Carlin on your blog and you came back into the office and looked at your email. What might that look like?

Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln, How Was The Play?
One of my blog readers wondered why we would print the George Carlin line about assasinating Reagan and Wallace. Are we condoning murder? Would it be funny to use the line "Where's Lee Harvey Oswald when you need him?"

Sorry I got to you like that, but in case you didn't know it, I am a secular humorist. I find both bits funny. Recently, a hardcore Republican friend of mine recommended a Saturday Night Live skit about President Obama and told me it was hilarious, adding, "not like the Tina Fey skits about Sarah Palin," which he found offensive. I found them both quite funny. Hey, it is George Carlin after all. I didn't agree with all of his politics but he sure made stuff, even assasination, funny.

Carlin Still Making Waves Six Feet Under
Another blog reader was "disgusted" by my inclusion of George Carlin's Indian Sergeant routine and claimed it promotes gay bashing.

"One of the secrets of a long and fruitful life is to forgive everybody, everything, every night before you go to bed."
—Bernard M. Baruch
December 16, 2009
Warmer out this morning. Went for a walk with Peaches at about 7:30. Stunning sunrise over Ratcliff Ridge:

Looking the other way, I also got some shots of the nice sunlit craigs up on Elephant Butte and Fortification Rock:

Yes, we've got several for sales signs on our road. Not much movement in this market.

At our annual True West Christmas Party last Saturday night we had a White Elephant gift exchange and although Sheri Riley got George Carlin's last book (literally) Last Words edited by Tony Hendra (personal friend of Dan's). I had my eyes on it and when it was my turn I took it away from her. Been reading it with much interest. I am a fan, saw him in concert at the University of Arizona in 1974. In my book he was a very funny, courageous standup guy:

Riffing on an early character The Indian Sergeant: "All right, tall guys over by the trees, fat guys down behind the rocks and you with the beads—get outta line! Boy, there's one in every village."

"Now, a lot of youse guys have been asking me about promotions. You'd like to make Brave second class. Get another scar up on your arm. Well, the results of your tests have come in and youse doin' beautifully. 'Burning Settlers' Homes,' everybody passed. 'Imitating a Coyote,' everybody passed. 'Sneaking Quietly Through the Woods,' everybody passed, except Limping Ox. However, Limping Ox is being fitted with a pair of corrective moccasins. . ."

"Okay, uniform: This is a FORMAL massacre. You want your Class A summer loincloth. Two green stripes over the eye, no feather. Arms are blue, legs are red, chest is optional. What's that Prancing Antelope? No, you can't put any purple on your eyelids. Hey, ain't you the one with the beads? I told youse—get outta line!"

On Standup Competition: "It's like gunfighting, the Old West. New guy in town. Might be faster than you."

On his heart attacks: "I have looked death in the face. And found it wanting."

On Hippie Beards vs. Old West Beards: "The word 'beard' shakes a lot of people up. Not American sounding. BEE-AR-D! Lenin had a beard! Gabby Hayes had. . .WHISKERS!"

On His Transformation From Straight to Hipster: "I always had long hair—only I used to keep it inside my head."

On Left-Wing Assasins' Aim: "Why is it, by the way, that the right-wing guys assasins have tried to shoot survived? Like Wallace and Reagan? Don't we have any marksmen on our side?"

His "Lace Irish" mother, Mary "referred to Jews as 'Norwegians.' The code between her and her sister, Agnes, was: 'Ag, couple of Norwegians on the bus.'"

Ironically, he last did "The Seven Words You Can't Say On Television" in 1992 because, as he admits, you now can say them on television (he did the bit on HBO).

"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight to our hearts."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15, 2009
Four days left to ruminate on being 62. In the waning days of this peculiar age I feel compelled to send a warning back through the ranks to my younger friends toiling up the trail behind me, unsure of their future, and insecure about what they will meet farther along.

As you cruise towards, or, into, your sixties you will notice it is much easier to be satisfied. This is because for the first time in your life you don’t really give a damn what other people think. And when you don’t care what people think about you, all sorts of options open up. Live and let live and all that crap.

For example, being a slave to fashion and peer pressure goes out the window. Perhaps when you were younger, like me, you wore your pants down around the crack of your ass. It seemed cool at the time and everyone who was very cool was doing it. But this is not comfortable at 62. It's called The Low Pants Creeping Up Rule: for every year over forty, you will pull your pants up, on average, another half inch. (this morning in yoga my sweats pants were just below my nipples and it felt DAMN GOOD!) And, I'm actually looking forward to wearing them even higher, over my ears perhaps with the zipper down, looking out at the world with my bug eyes, just egging on those dirty looks from every MTV fashion plate I meet.

You will soon realize you don’t have to be right all the time because you know how often being right made a difference (hint: usually nada and diddly squat).

At least half the things you feverently believed in when you were twenty, you no longer believe in, or they don’t apply. For example Free Love. Maybe, if they threw in free antibiotics. Show some restraint Young People! Everyone has the right to get high and have sex with whoever they want. Fine. Just stay off my lawn. True, I don’t have a lawn, but you know what I mean.

You will, however, be quite sore. When I was forty, I realized every day when I woke up, something hurt. At sixty, that expands to several things at once. Especially getting up in the morning. It takes me half the driveway to get my back unkinked, and then when I bend down to pick up the newspaper I realize, I’m going to be staying down there for a few moments, so I waddle around the cactus acting like I’m pruning, or doing this on purpose. But, I'm usually back in the house by sunrise.

So, I've got that going for me.

Sayings that befuddle you when you were younger, suddenly will make sense: “You will live and you will die. Both are good.”

Boy Howdy. I don't know how much longer I'll be here, but I have a hunch ol' Colette will have something pithy to say about it.

"What a wonderful life I've had!
 I only wish I'd realized it sooner.

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 14, 2009
Cold this morning, but turned out to be a beautiful day. Went home for lunch and took a walk with Peaches up the hill. Came back and looked in my discard pile and pulled out a partially finished campfire scene:

Some sweet effects. Now I need to add some people. On Saturday night at the True West Christmas party, the gated entrance to the Brink estate would not stay open so I drove down to help the latecomers through the gate (that would be Meghan, Dan Harshberger and Sheri). As I was waiting, I began to study the lighting effects on a series of plants by the entrance that were lit up from below. I wanted to ferret out the light effects as they snaked up the tree and faded in intensity into the branches. That inspired the development of the above scene. Of course this is an effect I have been working on for some time. Here's a page of sketches from last August:

And more from last February:

Meanwhile, ever sit around and wonder what kind of messages I get on a given day? Well thanks to Linda Gager, our intrepid gatekeeper, here you go:

• "Sidney Wilson from Scottsdale called today to order two gift subscriptions. She first heard about True West when you spoke at the Heard Museum!"

Amazing. Several women told me they were going to buy subscriptions and here one of them is. Very encouraging. Makes those speeches worth while, beyond the ego satisfaction (which by the way, my therapist wife told me this weekend that it's not easy being married to the guy who wants to be the most popular person in the world!)

• "Chuck Myers with Native American Traveling Arts is going to be here at 10:00 on Wednesday morning. He said he stopped by last year when he was here and visited with Meghan for quite a while. He said several of you purchased his jewelry and he wanted me to let you know that he’s lowered his prices in view of the current economy."

• "A very nice guy from Kaycee, WY called and wanted to talk to you. His name is Dean Burns. He is a re-enactor and a knife maker. I think he left you a voicemail as well."

• "A comment from Verlyn Osborn in St. George, KS:'Keep up the good work! This is one of those things that all the west can be proud of. It’s building on the heritage of hard work, patriotism and the American way. It’s more than just selling magazines it’s promoting the whole way of life that we’ve come to enjoy."

• "Kathie Mathis from Englewood, CO, a blind subscriber who gets our magazine on tape, just spent three weeks in the hospital and cancelled 14 or 15 magazines that she gets because other people were having to get her mail for her, but she couldn’t give up her True West Magazine!! She says, 'I just adore it! I listen to every single word!' She ordered a new subscription for her son for Christmas."

Oh, good. That will make up for this one:

• "Mr. F. Keeley from Scottsdale, AZ called to cancel his free subscription from Festival of the West effective after he receives his last issue. He said, 'I got this subscription free, and I figure that’s about the right price for what I’ve gotten out of it.'”

• "Bob, Doris Goodale, your State Legislator (and friend), called to order a gift subscription to True West for her mom and dad for Christmas. She said her mom always had such a crush on you!! She thinks her mom will be thrilled to get your magazine for Christmas.

"Doris inquired about your health (I told her you are doing well and taking good care of yourself) and said that she might be in touch with you in January when she comes to Carefree with her husband for a school board meeting. She would love to go have lunch with you if you’re around then."

The irony here is that I had a crush on Doris in the early seventies (she was one-half of the beautiful Wells twins of Kingman fame), but come to think of it, her mama was quite a looker herself. Her husband, Ellis Rucker, one of my dad's best friends, once cornered me in his office at Dunton Motors and told me to cool it with Doris (we went out maybe twice). He was being a tad overprotective but I was a drummer in a band called Central Heating at the time and well, now that I have a daughter, he's right and I would have told me the same thing.

• "Megan Fitzsimmons with Dunn & Bradstreet would like to talk to you about True West the business. Please reference file number: 125351508"

Not going to call because I'm not interested in selling the magazine, today. Maybe tomorrow?

• "A journalist named Brian Palmer with Slate magazine, a publication of the Washington Post called this morning. He's working on an article today about the mechanics of firing a gun sideways, and he was wondering whether you have the contact information for Phil Spangenberger, as he'd like to speak with him.

I do and he did.

• "A gentleman named Andy Wilkinson just wanted to touch base with you and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. He said he looks forward to hearing from you in the New Year once your deadline has passed and you have a little more time to give some thought to his request."

Gee, could you find out next time what request he made and what my answer was?

• "Don Hendren called and he wants to know if Indians used wagons to get from one campsite to another?"

And we got this sad note this morning about one of our pioneer posters on the Ning website:

"I want to personally thank each and everyone for participating in my groups. Each of you has been a good contributor and I think we all had the opportunity to learn something new. However I have decided that the time has come for me to leave True West and pursue other interests, therefore this group will soon be deleted.

Thank you again and Happy Trails.

—Gayle Martin

Sorry to see Gayle go. She was an interesting and passionate contributor. And I got this private email from a blog post:

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a wonderful film that was a favorite of mine for decades, but I can hardly stand watching it anymore. Burt Bacharach’s music just kills it for me, if I ever hear B.J. Thomas sing Raindrops again… and that jazzy bebop stuff during the chase scenes really stinks. Bacharach’s treatment is distracting and seems way out of place in some parts of the film.

Three that are better, not that it matters,

Ry Cooder - The Long Riders

Bob Dylan - Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Leonard CohenMcCabe and Mrs. Miller

—Lance Ross

And, this is just for half the day. Whew! Stimulating though and it keeps me off the streets.

"Why can't the ant and the caterpillar just get along? One eats grass, the other eats Caterpillars... Oh, I see now."
—Jack Handey
December 14, 2009
Cranking up for another issue, our annual train issue. Dan The Man Harshberger asked me at the True West Christmas party last Saturday night what the cover concept was going to be for the photos of Marilyn Monroe and locomotive we sent down.

I told Dan my movie poster concept about the Durango-Silverton Railroad and how Hollywood saved it. Here is my rough for the cover:

And here are several old style movie posters I want to emulate:

And here's another page of posters from Bruce Hershenson's More Cowboy Movie Posters book:

I especially like the Sunset Trail lettering, above. While we're enjoying these, check out a couple more:

Sweet stuff these old classic posters. Check out the bent lettering on Arizonian. People try and simulate this on computers but it just doesn't track as well as the old hand lettering. Spoken, of course, by an old guy, who thinks the old ways were superior.

Sent all this down to Dan and he's hard at work on the lettering even as you read this.

“There are very few good movies. When one ends, it gets pretty quiet.”
—James Spader

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13, 2009
Kathy and I attended the True West Christmas party last night at the Brink's beautiful home on the side of Black Mountain. I believe it's our fourth time at this location and a fun time was had by all.

When Kathy was a senior at Washington High School in Phoenix and I was a junior at the University of Arizona, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, a Hollywood film crew of 165 descended on Durango, Colorado to begin filming a Western that started out with the title: "The Sundance Kid And Butch Cassidy." The date was September 16, 1968 and the team of pros had a two week window (after the tourist season and before the snow season) to use the popular tourist train, The Durango-Silverton Railroad.

Although the actors had rehearsed for two weeks prior to filming, the director, George Roy Hill, was immediately alarmed that Paul Newman was playing his part as Butch Cassidy much more hammy than he had in rehearsals. A three hour argument ensued with Hill trying to encourage the world's biggest star at the time, to tone it down and to play Butch as he had in rehearsals—warm and amiable. He admonished Newman "You don't play funny, you don't play sad, you play real." This went on for some time, and several scenes with the jokey Newman as Cassidy survive in the final film, but you wouldn't spot it unless you know the behind-the-scenes story. And since I have watched the film three times in the past week, and the making-of video twice, I can now spot those scenes. Among the other gems and tidbits I gleaned from my BCSK crash course are:

• The screenwriter, William Goldman claims he spent eight years researching the history which is quite amazing considering how much of it is wrong, especially the ending with the huge Bolivian army, 500-some strong. Still, although Dan Buck might disagree, I think Goldman is true to his opening disclaimer (see below). And, although the script was turned down by many (one studio would only do it if Butch and Sundance stayed and fought the Super Posse because, as the studio honcho put it: "John Wayne doesn't run."). Westerns are about confrontation, they said. And, besides, these guys ran away to Bolivia? You can't leave the West and call it a Western? Can you? Gene Autry never left the West. Still, in spite of the naysayers, Goldman received $400,000 for the script. He then took his family to Hollywood for a month and met with George Roy Hill every day to go over tweaking the script. I would love to know what was added and subtracted in that process.

• Paul Newman was originally cast to play the Sundance Kid but he soon switched roles and then Steve McQueen was in but he dropped out because of top billing issues. Then Jack Lemon and Warren Beatty were considered but the studio, Twentieth Century Fox, agreed on one thing: none of them wanted Robert Redford. Credit George Roy Hill for fighting for the then unknown actor to be able to hold his own with Newman. And credit Newman with showing up on his days off to rehearse with his co-star and do POVs, which most stars are loath to do. As Spencer Tracy said when someone asked him what he looks for in a script: "Days off."

• A Marine pilot who flew in two wars, George Roy Hill made the Hollywood crowd nervous because he got up at five every day, played Bach on the piano, then drove to the studio and watched a Western at 7 A.M. By his own account, he screened some fifty Westerns, from William S. Hart to Shane and beyond, taking notes and looking for patterns and styles and potential crew members. He determined from this due diligence that he wanted the cinematographer from The Professionals, but the studio said no way.

• The studio said Hill could have anybody except Conrad "Connie" Hall, because Connie had been on a failing film in 1965 and he was on their s--- list. Hill fought for Hall and ultimately got him. He also got a two-fer, since Connie came to the production with Katherine Ross, his significant other (they were married from 1969-1975). Katherine's future husband, was in the Sundance card game at the beginning of the film. He's listed as "Card Player #2" but we know him as Sam Elliott. I went back and looked at this scene and for the life of me I can't recognize Sam, although he's shot from three-quarter angle and it's in deep sepia shadow.

• There are only 12 minutes of music in the entire picture and according to my friend Lance Ross "It all sucks!" While it's true that the B.J. Thomas rendering of Burt Bacharach's "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" seems hopelessly dated today, it's actually the French baroque humming scenes during the Bolivia chase scenes that grate on me. In contrast, Bob Dylan's score in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid has only grown in stature, especially since Peckinpah hated the Dylan score and took them out of his cut. And, by the way, Hill cut the bicycle sequence to Simon and Garfunkel's The 59th Street Bridge Song and then played it for Burt to be inspired. The same thing happened on the film Ghost Busters when the director cut the film to Huey Lewis and the News' tune "I Want A New Drug," and the subsequent song "Ghostbusters" was so close, Huey sued and won.

• In the bicycle sequence when Butch crashes through the corral fence and infuriates the bull, Hill imported a bull named "Bill" from Los Angeles (they drove him over to Grafton, Utah). And to get him steamed they sprayed "Highlight" on his balls and he would run. Then they roped him, brought him back to his mark and sprayed him again. I'd like to say that took balls, but that's just too cheap of a shot.

• As mentioned, Newman and Hill clashed over the Sheriff Bledsoe (Jeff Corey) scene with Paul believing it should be placed right next to the outlaws' departure for Bolivia. They argued about it so much someone suggested the title of the movie be changed to Butch Cassidy & The Sheriff Bledsoe Scene.

• In the Battle for leadership of the Hole-In-The-Wall gang scene the studio wanted two changes: when Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy) challenges Butch to a knife fight, Cassidy walks over to Sundance and says he doesn't mean to be a sore loser, but if Logan wins to kill him. Redford gives a deadly smile while waving to Logan and says under his breath, "Glad to." The studio didn't like this, claiming that the Kid wouldn't allow Logan to kill his friend. Then when Butch walks up and kicks Logan in the cajones, the studio and the censor board had a fit. "Nobody had ever been kicked in the balls in Panavision," quipped one of the crew. The fight was over how long you could hold this shot (hint: not long).

• The entrance of the Super Posse was created by positioning a stationary railroad car with an elevated roof with a door three feet higher than normal (so the riders wouldn't be decapitated). A ramp was put up the opposite side of the car with the open door on the camera side. The stunt riders rode up the ramp, through the car and jumped out the open door at a run. They were paid $1,000 for this dangerous jump and they filmed it more than once. It's only about four seconds in the final edit but it's a classic sequence. "Whatever they're sellin,' I ain't buyin'" Butch says as they all run for their horses.

• When the boys jumped off the cliff into the water, they filmed the lead up scenes on the Animus River near Durango, but since the water wasn't deep enough for the stuntmen to survive a jump, they went back to the Fox Ranch at Malibu and had two stunt men jump off a 75 foot crane into a lagoon where ten outboard motors simulated a current and painted cliffs to simulate Colorado were superimposed on the sides, hiding the crane. I have to say the shot does not match the Animus Gorge in any way, but it doesn't matter in the least to the casual viewer, which would be me when i first saw it in a drive-in in Tucson in 1969.

• In the final shootout in San Vicente (shot in Mexico near Cuernavaca and Taxco), the crew utilized air guns shooting pellets with sharp shooters aiming at the walls close to the actors' heads. A documentary film of the set during this sequence showed two shooters standing on step ladders shooting above and around Redford and Newman. Man, that is dangerous work (on both sides of the camera). They also utilized an illegal Running W to trip the mule with the ammo, but fortunately the mule was okay.

• Made for about $6.5 million, the picture made over $100 million and was the top grosser of 1969.

• After a second failed marriage, Katherine Ross married Card Player #2 and they have been married since 1985.

"Not that it matters, but most of what follows is true."
—The original opening card, as written by William Goldman

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 11, 2009
Met Wonderful Russ and Danny Z last night for dinner down at the Keg Steakhouse in Desert Ridge. Both Russ and Danny are cancer survivors and of course I had my own scare, so we yukked it up quite a bit, although Russ and Danny got to comparing Blackberries and started texting each other at the table and then timing how long the signal had to "go to the moon and back." That in itself was funny, but you kind of have to know them. Danny is a legendary concert promoter, knows Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Bonnie Raitt, ad infititum and has photos on his iPhone of him and Sir Paul at a party. Amazing.

Lynda Grager, our subscription supervisor, often keeps me up to speed on subscriber comments, like this one:

"Glenn Allen from Richmond, VA called to subscribe today. He asked me to tell you that he really enjoys your True West Moments on the Western’s channel and to keep doing what you’re doing with the magazine and don’t let people forget the Old West no matter how modern this world gets!"

GP, Glenn Allen, GP.

Meanwhile, I worked on a raw sienna patina painting this morning. As I've mentioned before, the quest is to get an honest note without contrivance or artificiality sneaking in. Not easy to do, or, I should say, it takes skill and training and a repetitious mantra ("Shut off the left side of the brain! Do it! Shut it off! I mean it!!"). Got this semi-honest wash at about eight A.M.:

Went home for lunch and while I ate, I studied this little patina painting, imagining what it might be. Is that a stormy sky? Is it a desert wind storm? Took a crack at it and whipped out this little version:

It's the Mexicali Stud. Neat little story. Can't wait to pursue it further after we get Mickey in the can. Gee, I wonder what ol' Abbey has to say about that?

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view."
—Edward Abbey

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 10, 2009
They called him "Loco Rooskie" south of the border down Magdalena way. But not to his face, of course. Emilio Kosterlitzky, born in Moscow, Russia in 1853, entered military school at St. Petersburg, Russia and later transferred to the Royal Navy College in Moscow. In 1872 he was assigned to a training ship on a world cruise, but on December 3, 1872, Kosterlitzky jumped ship at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela and made his way north, landing in Guaymas, Sonora in April of 1873. He enlisted in the Mexican army and rose to leadership in El Norte (the Wild West in Mexico was the Wild North). Emilio did Presidente Porfirio Diaz's bidding in the region and ruled Sonora and the border area with an iron fist. The head of the Gendarmeria Fiscal, better known as The Rurales, Emilio could be harsh and ruthless all the while being quite courteous. He is seen here in his formal uniform, which favored the Prussian style and must have stood out along the border:

He cut quite a figure during the Apache Kid campaign, and at one point saved Mickey Free from hanging. Mickey had killed a corrupt Rurale in an cantina fight, bringing down the emnity of the dead Rurale's cousin, a captain in the Rurales. Emilio and his men subsequently tracked and fought a ragtag group of Apaches near Casas Grandes, killing seven and recovering Glenn Reynold's watch, stolen when the Apache Kid and six other Apache prisoners escaped, killing Sheriff Reynolds and his deputy. For some time it was believed that the Apache with the watch was the Kid, but Mickey quickly identified him as another San Carlos renegade, Bachenal.

"If you ain't ever heard a Russian general speakin' pure Mex, you ain't lived a lick."
—Tom Horn
December 10, 2009
Having visited Bolivia last summer, I re-rented Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid from Netflix about two weeks ago to see how they handled the Bolivia scenes, but it sat on our end table night after night because I couldn't get any interest from my family to watch it with me.

Last night Kathy had a bunco get together down in north Scottsdale and so I snuggled in and gave it a look, starting with the making of the movie video in the Special Features part of the menu, which has become one of my favorite things to watch because it's so inspiring and educational in terms of craft and story telling.

The director George Roy Hill narrated in minute detail all of the problems of the shoot: the too-much-dynamite on the safe scene (matching the smoke and floating money with the explosion and then the actors was a bitch), and the Super Posse exploding out of the special train car (they built a special car with a higher door so the riders wouldn't be decapitated). He had several running arguments with Paul Newman. One daily argument was the placement of the scene where Butch and Sundance visit the friendly sheriff who immediately instructs them on how to tie him up, and he also tells them their time is over and they will, sooner than later, be shot down and killed. Newman believed that scene should run immediately before they decide to go to South America and Hill believed it should run earlier, before the jump off the cliff scene, some twenty minutes later. They argued about it so much that someone quipped they should call the movie The Blah-Blah Scene, based on the sheriff's character speech, can't think of his name off the top of my head. Anyway, it's an easy call today—Hill was correct. It needs the Super Posse build-up, after the sheriff's speech because we, the audience, are still in denial, along with the boys, about their ability to escape. Absolutely brilliant story telling. Everything works perfectly and the screenwriter, William Goldman, on the commentary track, tells how rare this is in movie making.

Another gem is that Darryl Zanuck spent a boatload of money on a New York street scene for another Fox flick filming at the same time, Hello Dolly, and Hill wanted to use the street for the New York segment on BC&SK but since Hill's movie was coming out first, Fox wouldn't let them use it. So, Hill got them to agree to using still photos on the street, then came up with the still photos montage, where they shot the actors on the Hello Dolly set but then married those still photos with actual New York Historical Society photos.

At almost every turn, Hill and crew turned a problem into a solution (although he was very disappointed in the slo-mo death scene of the payroll shootout and never did get it the way he wanted). Really a must see for anyone who thinks they can do a Western. I'm going to watch it again tonight with the Hill commentary (last night I watched the William Goldman commentary). Just the absolute best.

And, oh, yes, the Bolivia scenes were filmed southwest of Mexico City and the transition from New York harbor (we see the Statue of Liberty go by) and then it cuts to big letters across the top of a railroad car: "Nacional Bolivia" and the train goes by and we see Butch, Sundance and Etta standing at a gutted out train station. Really clever and satisfying. I forgot how great the Bolivia bank robbery scenes were where the guys can't speak Spanish, and Butch is cribbing from notes.

Oh, and Hill was very afraid the movie would get too many laughs and be perceived as a comedy and thus ruin the ending when he wants us to feel bad. They snuck the film in San Francisco and the title card at the beginning—"Not that it matters, but most of this is true"—got a huge laugh, so, in a panic, Hill excised half the card ("Not that it matters") to deaden the humor. Talk about agonizing over the details!

"Who are those guys?"
—Butch and Sundance marvelling at the prowess of the Super Posse

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

December 9, 2009
Been culling notes from my Mickey Free files on the home computer. Amazing how much stuff one can accumulate in such a short time (granted it's been six years. Ha.). As young Felix Ward (real name Felix Telles, his mother remarried) struggled to learn the ways of the Apache, as mentioned, he participated in the pine cone hunt. Another survival skill was the Turn Around. Young Apaches were taught to study a pass ahead of them, then go through the pass and coming out the other side, stop and turn around, to study the pass from the other side. Often in the heat of a running battle, it is easy to get lost or confused when covering ground, but if a warrior knows the terrain, both front and back, he is able to navigate more intelligently.

Felix also learned these skills:

• Have the women pound enough meat and fat to seven days and nights, and take along water.

• Cross open flats by night and reach a mountain and hide in the brush by day.

• Locate water holes by climbing to a high place and looking for green spots, but do not go to them by day, only at night.

• Never sleep under a tree, it is the first place the enemy will look.

• If you become lost, make a fire and send up a smoke signal, then put it out and run away to a place where you can watch to see if anyone comes. At the same time look for a smoke signal response. Between the two, you will find who is chasing, or tracking you, and you will find friendly tribesmen.

Cool stuff. Can't wait to start laying some of this out. Plan to have something up and online by the end of January. Here's a photo of me and the Top Secret Writer in Bisbee working on this project in the summer of 2007:

About time, eh? Gee, I wonder what ol' Horn has to say about this?

“When you see Apache sign, be mighty careful. When you don’t see Apache
sign, be even more careful.”

—Tom Horn